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News Flash: BART director doesn’t want to raise fares to the airport (as long as the airport isn’t OAK)

BART is considering adding 2 to 3 dollars more to fares going to San Francisco Airport, in order alleviate the pressure to raise regular fares (there is already $1.50 extra tacked on to BART fares when your ride starts or stops at SFO). Here is what BART director Lynette Sweet told the Contra Costa Times about the proposal:

Lynette Sweet, a BART board member from San Francisco, said she is concerned the sharp increase for trips to the airport would be too much.

“It becomes hard to swallow, and to get people to buy into an increase that large,” she said.

A steep increase in fares to the airport would be a hardship for people who work there, she said.

You couldn’t make this stuff up. Sweet voted on Thursday for the plan that will charge people taking BART to Oakland International Airport $6 to get from the BART station to the terminal via an elevated people mover. BART’s next step in getting their train-in-the-sky built is to persuade the Port of Oakland, which operates the Oakland Airport, to pitch in $44 million to the project. Of course, the Port is as broke as BART is, so how does BART propose that the Port come up with the $44 million? By adding a new fee to every plane ticket out of OAK!

A trip from, say, SF civic center to SFO would cost $7.35 if they raised the SFO surcharge by 2 dollars, and $8.35 if they raised it by 3. A trip from SF civic center to OAK would cost $9.55 if the people mover gets built. With a higher SFO surcharge, the most expensive trip on BART would be from Pittsburg/Bay Point to SFO, at $10.40 with a $3.50 surcharge, or $11.40 with a $4.50 surcharge. A trip from Pittsburg/Bay Point to OAK will be $10.35 if they charge $6 for the train-in-the-sky. And that’s before you add in the fee that BART wants the Port of Oakland to add to every ticket out of Oakland Airport. And keep in mind that Pittsburg/Bay Point is in the East Bay, so Oakland is the closer of the two airports.

I wish the Contra Costa Times reporter had asked Sweet (who represents some parts of the East Bay as well) why charging riders 8 to 10 bucks to get to SFO would be “hard to swallow” and a “hardship,” while charging riders 8 to 10 bucks to get to OAK, plus adding an unspecified new fee to the plane tickets of every passenger who flies out of OAK, is apparently nothing to worry about.

Sweet is the chairperson of the BART’s Finance, Budget and Internal Audit committee. I wondered how the chair of that committee could be so haphazard and irresponsible when it comes to managing BART’s funds, but when I looked at her official bio on the BART website, it suddenly all made sense: before going into public “service,” Sweet had a long career as a bank executive. No wonder she thinks it’s perfectly okay to gamble with BART’s money, and expect regular schmoes to pick up the tab if the gamble doesn’t pay off. I’m glad she’s suddenly concerned about overcharging air travellers and airport workers, but I wish she had discovered that concern about 24 hours beforehand when she was voting on the OAC.